New Delhi: A week after two new Covid vaccines, Corbevax and Covovax, received emergency approval for use in India, their manufacturers are still waiting for further guidelines from the Union government to roll them out.
A source in the Pune-based Serum Institute of India, which will be manufacture and market Covovax in India, told ThePrint Monday that there is sufficient stock of the previously approved vaccines (such as the SII-manufactured Covishield), which is why an immediate rollout of the new vaccines is uncertain.
However, the source added that the health ministry is currently discussing whether or not the new vaccines can be offered as “precaution doses”, the administration of which will start from 10 January for healthcare workers, frontline workers, and people over the age of 60 with comorbidities who have already received the second vaccine dose.
Planning ‘precaution doses’
Indian Council of Medical Research Director General Balram Bhargava had also said during a press briefing on 30 December that the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI) was deliberating on which vaccines will be given as precaution doses.
Bhargava had said a decision will be taken and clear cut guidelines will be available before 10 January. He had added that the NTAGI was looking at which vaccines are available, whether the available vaccines can be mixed, and if the two new vaccines can be included for “precaution doses”.
Almost 90 per cent of India’s vaccinated population has received Covishield. “If the government decides on mixing vaccines, then providing Covaxin doses as boosters will be very difficult,” the source quoted above said. This is because Covaxin maker Bharat Biotech does not have as much manufacturing capacity.
Meanwhile, a source in Biological E Ltd, which will manufacture Corbevax, also said that the company is waiting for the government guidelines.
This is the first time Biological E has received an emergency use authorisation and the company is still working on the logistics of transporting the vaccines across the country, said the source.
Both Corbevax and Covovax are recombinant protein subunit vaccines. In these vaccines, a harmless pathogen is genetically engineered to produce a protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
While Covovax has been approved by WHO for emergency use, Corbevax is yet to publish phase 3 clinical trial results in a peer-reviewed journal.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)